Remembering Rebecca

One of my favorite musical theater performer died this week. Rebecca Luker. Beautiful lady. Beautiful voice. Beautiful soul.

It was 1985

The year was certainly something to remember. Ronald Reagan started his second term. Atari launched the ST series of computers. Commodore launched the Amiga. And Apple got rid of Steve Jobs. For business reasons. For the Pepsi guy. Nothing against Scully, but Apple lost something when it lost jobs. It’s soul. He was mercurial. He was ruthless. He was imperfect. And Apple was lost without him. It’s a lesson for us all. We all have things that encumber us. We all have strengths. We are imperfect. When we try to remove the imperfection, we lose our balance. Perhaps, it is better to understand the imperfections and strive to do better. Instead of denying, accept. Work harder. And do better.

And Microsoft was just getting started. Windows 1.0, then Windows 2.0 and THEN. Windows 3.0. Not this year, but sooner than later. And that changed the world of computing as we know it. Still, Windows may have looked and worked differently had the Mac, the Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga not seen the light of day. You don’t have to be first. Though it often helps. You don’t have to get it right the first time. Or the second time. But if you stop trying, you will never know what you can accomplish.

Do not deny your identity. Be yourself. Be a better version of yourself. Accept who you are. Be willing to work hard and change for the better. It is through the acknowledgement of failures and weaknesses that true strength is found. As Brandon Sanderson said, the most important step a man can take is always the next one.

A Referral Bonus – Topaz Labs

Just something different. Topaz Labs has been running a special sale on their products (a complete bundle) for a large discount. The sale is ending today. I don’t use all the products in their catalog, but the two that I use, I use all the time. Two of the best Photoshop plugins that I have ever used are Sharpen AI and De Noise AI from Topaz Labs. The link below will give you a discount if you choose to purchase any of the products. And give me a little bit in return.

http://topazlabs.refr.cc/winstonl

I can’t vouch for the other products I don’t use, but I can heartily recommend the two products that I do use. Topaz Sharpen AI and De Noise AI are indispensable tools in my workflow. They are class leading.

I did try Mask AI but I didn’t purchase it – I don’t do a lot of masking so I can use other tools to do that task, if I need to. I don’t upscale often, so I don’t use GigaPixel AI. JPEG to Raw AI? Never used it. I’d like to try their video enhancer product, but it takes a lot of compute power to work. In the end, you buy the tools that you use.

Topaz gives you a lifetime license to use their products but you only have a one year window where you can get upgrades for the product. While your license to use the product does not expire, your ability to download and install updates to the product you purchase expires after a year. I was upset when they changed their pricing model, but at least it is not subscription based and you get to use their product for perpetuity. I ended up buying an additional license to use the two products for another year. The upgrades are worth it, even though the version of the products that I had before renewing were already good. In the end, software companies should sell good products at a good price. Topaz, in my use case, sells products that are invaluable to the work I do. Of course, as with everything else, YMMV.

A very quiet day (birdwise)

A nice Saturday morning – sunny and cool. A typical mid Atlantic November day. Huntley Meadows beckoned. It’s never a good sign when you get there a half hour after sunrise and people are leaving. And truth be told, it was three hours of looking for something other than a red winged blackbird. You can hear the kingfisher, but it was far away. You can see the mergansers but they were far away. A blue heron flew in but it was far away. Heck, I probably should have stayed far away from Huntley as well, and catch a few more ZZZs. Oh well, at least there was a collection of water on the ground over some leaves. You just go with the flow. Even if the water is at a standstill (or nearly so).

Fall is Here

Can it be? It’s autumn in the northern hemisphere? Where did summer go? Heck, where did the year go? It has been a rather challenging year for almost everyone. With a scant three months before the page turns and 2020 becomes a memory, it is probably a good time to remember that the hardships and challenges we have endured are what life is about. It is not about jetting to some far off destination. Experiencing the delight of other places or tasting yet another new dish. Life is about living each day the best we can. To be kind and respectful. To watch and listen and learn. We don’t have to agree with what everyone says. Or what everyone does. We must do our part to not harm others. And this means respecting each other as if we are all borne of the same Father. That we are brothers and sisters in the most basic thing that defines each of us. Our DNA says so. Our RNA says so. Does our heart tell the same tale, or do we insist that enlightenment is only for the few? I tend to think it’s for the few. Oh. Check that. That kind of thinking, of allowing ourselves to think that we are better than the other only brings ruin to a community. If this pandemic wracked world has something left to teach us, let it be a simple reminder. A smile, even beneath a mask, still radiates warmth within. We cannot love everyone, but we can respect everyone. And in doing so, perhaps, that respect will become something greater. Something better. Perhaps.

What Galileo Saw

At the limits of what a longish zoom on an APS-C camera can capture. I probably should have set up the camera on the gimbal mount instead of a ballhead to make locating the object easier. This is Jupiter, with the four Galilean moons. Roughly what Galileo saw when he trained his telescope on the largest planet in our solar system.

The moons from left to right are Callisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede

Callisto is barely visible in this picture. It’s the second largest moon in the Jovian system but it has very low reflectivity (albedo), which makes it rather difficult to see with binoculars.

That Analog Pop

Vinyl sounds great, but those pops! I guess it’s the price to pay when listening to something that sounds a little less clinical.

The Beattles, Norwegian Wood

It’s interesting to see what segments in the music are used by the youtube AI.

Cinema Paradiso

One of the greatest movies in the history of cinema is the great Italian film “Cinema Paradiso.” It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but really, this film should have won the award for Best Picture. Truly a masterpiece, with a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by the peerless Ennio Morricone. As a way to introduce people to this movie, and as a tribute to a truly great composer (who recently died), here is a performance of the theme from “Cinema Paradiso.”

Truly a great film, truly a great soundtrack.

Thank You, Brandon Sanderson!

For giving us such great books to fill our minds (and hearts) with wonder. For the words that provide inspiration every day:

“The most important words a man can say are, “I will do better.” These are not the most important words any man can say. I am a man, and they are what I needed to say.

The ancient code of the Knights Radiant says “journey before destination.” Some may call it a simple platitude, but it is far more. A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us.

But if we stop, if we accept the person we are when we fall, the journey ends. That failure becomes our destination. To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.

Late is Late

July was supposed to be the month to see the comet Neowise. Unfortunately, between the evening thunderstorms and the clouds that occluded the stars at dawn, I didn’t get a chance to venture out and look for this occasional visitor until it had gone around the sun and headed back to the world of Pluto and beyond. When I finally got a chance to look for the comet, the light pollution near a major city, in conjunction with the fading luminosity of an object zooming away from our planet made the search for a near eighth magnitude object a rather daunting task. And a futile one at that. Still, I needed to take a picture of something. And so it was that late really was late, but as with everything else, you make do with what you have. Or in this case, what is easily seen.